Understanding the Barriers that Contribute to the Gender Gap in Computing in Higher Education
Effective Years: 2022-2025
Participation in computer science by women is a significant goal for NSF and benefits the nation’s workforce in emerging technologies. Academic and career path decisions are made by individuals and understanding barriers that contribute to student selection of computer science careers may reduce the gender gap in this field. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University seeks to understand personal, social, and institutional constraints that influence the decision-making of first-year non-computer science/non-engineering female undergraduate students. The professional development plan will build research capacity through developing skills in mixed methods approaches to STEM education research. This project focuses on female students who are not in the technology pathway and therefore can provide insights into experiences that lead to academic and career selection.
The goals of the project are to examine decision-making factors that influence the choice to stay or exit the computer science pathway, identify stories of challenges and successes of non-computer science female students in introductory computer science courses, and derive lessons that can be applied towards best practices in designing a welcoming and thriving environment to promote further engagement by women in computer science. From a foundation of Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory and sociocultural self model of behavior, the project seeks to examine individual contextualize choice in relation to institutional and course structure. The project is supported by NSF's EHR Core Research Building Capacity in STEM Education Research (ECR: BCSER) program, which is designed to build investigators’ capacity to carry out high-quality STEM education research.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.